I am trying to get a car started. It’s not any car, though. It’s a gorgeous, vintage luxury automobile. It’s also owned by an evil mastermind named Dr. Zor. I am trying to steal it. From a plane. In flight. Because I’m a spy. It’s not every game where you dodge lasers and diffuse a bomb while trying to drive off into the sky. This is I Expect You To Die.
IEYTD is a puzzle game for Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR, made by Schell Games. In this interactive spy thriller, you find yourself grabbing and manipulating objects in interesting ways to solve puzzles while you complete a mission.
The company classifies it as an Escape the Room game, which is as good a label as any for the series of puzzle missions you have to do. You simply stand in one location, turn in place, reach or duck, and interact with objects. There isn’t any walking or teleporting. There are just the rooms surrounding you.
So what do you do as a spy solving puzzles? The first mission is Operation: Friendly Skies, the aforementioned car in a plane level. This is the same mission that was in the demo of I Expect You To Die that helped introduce Oculus Touch at the Oculus Connect conference in the fall of 2015.
Without spoiling too much, you have to find the keys for the car, dodge security measures after you turn the ignition, use a screwdriver to remove a panel to access more controls, which results in that bomb being deployed. Then you need to disarm it before it blows. No problem, right?
Of course, half the fun of IEYTD is that you aren’t just solving puzzles for puzzles’ sake. You are a super spy! You have a mission for each room, and you are trying to succeed in that mission, and survive any traps you encounter. The early ’60s feel gives it all a great style, with vintage furniture, gadgets, and a tongue in cheek tone to your handler briefing you. There is even a James Bond-style opening sequence with flashy imagery and a catchy song I can’t get out of my head. It all elevates the gameplay to make the game that much more memorable.
When the game starts up on the PC they give you a choice of using the mouse, an Xbox One controller, or Oculus Touch — with a DualShock or PlayStation Move choice coming for the PS VR version. But it is clear that the game was designed primarily with motion controllers. With the Touch controllers, you see a pair of hands in the world. The controls for each hand are identical, so it’s relatively intuitive to learn. The grip or trigger buttons let you grab an item, such as a lever, but then you move your actual arm to pull it down. One face button lets you activate an object, such as shooting a gun or igniting a lighter.
Then comes the Telekinesis, or TK, abilities. In the world of I Expect You To Die, you’re not just a regular super spy, as you’re actually a psychic super spy. Using the Touch’s finger sensing, you can actually point with your index finger, causing a reticle to appear. Now you can grab the items from afar. You can pull it toward you by tilting the analog stick down, or move it away from you by tilting it up. You aim the levitating item you are holding via TK left and right by moving your arm.
The second face button for each hand lets you make an item just hover in air, freeing it from your TK control so you can interact with other items. With TK, the reach of your character to engage in puzzles via items and furniture is extended beyond your immediate area, expanding the interactive size of the game’s space. This also helps people who may be using the Oculus Rift or PS VR in tight quarters; if you can’t physically reach out your arm with the motion control to grab things, or take a step forward or to the side, you can just point and grab it psychically.
Personally, though I understand why they included telekinesis for accessibility reasons, in some ways I think it detracts from the immersion of just grabbing items with your actual hands and using them. But that would’ve limited the design of the rooms you play in and change the feel of the game significantly. Similarly, if they added teleport locomotion, which many other VR games use, the game would’ve been very different: too easy to dodge dangers, locations too large to feel quick-paced and exciting, too artificial to put you in the shoes of a super spy.
So how much will you face as such a spy? Besides the intro/tutorial level in your office at headquarters, there are four missions to complete. Despite that making for a seemingly short game, the trial and error nature of the gameplay will make the game longer than you expect — at least for some people. Still, I was left wanting to go on more missions and face additional puzzles, traps, and even story events. When you do finish the last mission, it unlocks commentary balloons in the levels, to get a behind-the-scenes look at the game. Which is always a welcomed addition.
Beyond that, Schell Games also gave each mission six optional objectives to accomplish, including speed runs, giving I Expect You To Die some replay value beyond simply finishing the levels. These objectives also result in you gaining collectibles for the office that serves as the hub between missions. It’s a nice way to feel a sense of achievement for doing the optional objectives and getting the most out of each mission. If I was a super spy, I would want proof of my daring exploits too.